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St. Helena Giant Earwig

December 23, 2014

When considering the death of species and the grim biological impoverishment of earth, we have to take the lesser with the larger, and the less lovely as well. Recent news of the extinction of the St. Helena Giant Earwig is a good example of this. I have to admit that earwigs are one of the only insect varieties that give me involuntary shudders, which I think has to do with the cerci on the rear of their abdomens, twin pincers whose function is generally unclear, but may have some defensive quality. The St. Helena Earwig was the titan of the group, measuring an astonishing 3.1 inches when fully grown. Inhabitants of St. Helena, a remote outpost in the south Atlantic to the west of Africa, the earwig was driven to extinction by the predictable conjunction of habitat destruction (gravel mining by humans for building) and invasion of exotic species; mice, rats, and centipedes. When I look now at the photos of these dramatic beasts, my frisson of horror lessens- they’re actually quite beautiful, and harmless, and were relics of a unique and rich history of evolution on their remote island home. We move forward now relentlessly into a shallower world- the only earwigs we’ll ever see are the garden variety, slithery little fiends that they are, and we’ll never marvel at the true bulk horror of their enormous finger-length cousins. Our nightmares suffer as well as our dreams.

Ecology & AnimalsEnvironment & ClimateGlobal SolidarityHealth

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